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Growing Ukrainian dance culture

By Josh Aldrich, Camrose Canadian

The Camrose Veselka Ukrainian Dance Society performs a Hutzul dance in the female small group (13-14 years) during Culture Fuze Dance Festival at the Lougheed Centre in Camrose on March 11.Josh Aldrich/ Camrose Canadian

The Camrose Veselka Ukrainian Dance Society performs a Hutzul dance in the female small group (13-14 years) during Culture Fuze Dance Festival at the Lougheed Centre in Camrose on March 11.Josh Aldrich/ Camrose Canadian

Ukrainian dancing enthusiasts hope this weekend becomes tradition. 

 

Camrose hosted Culture Fuze last week and welcomed more than 450 dancers and an estimated 2,000 viewers to the three-day dance festival at the Jeanne and Peter LougheedPerforming Arts Centre. A home festival was a first for the Camrose Veselka Ukrainian Dance Society but it also marked the very beginning of the competitive calendar for Ukrainian dance clubs. 

“The Ukrainian community as a whole is not that big, so if we were to have it on the same weekend as say the Vermillion festival, that’s not fair because  it’s making clubs choose which one they’re going to go to,” said festival organizer Tanya Pattullo, who teamed up with Kyla Joice to put on the event. “We’re going to keep it early, we’ll keep it away from everyone else’s festival and that way it’s not a competition. We’re all ne big community and that way everyone can benefit.” 

Local dancers more than held their own with some of the best Ukrainian dance clubs in the province. The Male Small Group (9-10 years) — Drayton Page, Adam Smith, Liam Smith, Evan Padilla, Mitchell Joyce, Wesley Joyce — earned the Lou and Vera Pukal Teamwork Award and the $100 scholarship that went with it for their “Men with Spears” performance. The Pukals were long time surrogate parents to all dancers in the Veselka club. Their love of the Ukrainian culture, and their commitment to help the entire team of dancers excel at their craft is the reason for this award. They knew it was a team effort that produced the greatest results.  

Veselka also had two groups make it into Sunday’s showcase, the mixed small group (7 and 8 years) —  Hope Haugen, Paige Dyer, Presley Perry, Devyn Rasmuson, Ruby Bascello, Autumn Joyce, Drayton Page — for their Butterfly Hunters dance, and the mixed small group (11-12 years) — Abby Padilla, Anna Poole, Talayna Ekelund, Brooklyn Pattullo, Wesley Joyce, Liam Smith — for their Bereznianka dance. 

“The adjudicators don’t know where anybody’s from, so the fact that they got chosen for that was a real treat for the kids,” said Pattullo. 

An important part of Culture Fuze was the workshops on Saturday night hosted by the adjudicators —Vincent Rees and Stephanie Lilley —  they were well attended by all ages and informed dancers of many of the traditions and reasons for the different moves and techniques they were performing. Being this early in the season, dancers will also be able to use adjudicator comments to mold their routines for the rest of the year. 

“Often times the adjudicator would say ‘I can’t wait to see this dance in two months because you will have that much more under your belt and it will be that much more perfected,’” said Pattullo. “It was a good learning experience for all of them, to get them out on the stage for that first go.” 

One of the festival’s big goals is to grow and spread the Ukrainian culture in the area and Pattullo says they were successful in at least laying the foundation to be able to do this. 

“When Ukrainians get together it is always a party and they spread that love around,” said Pattullo.

“They see (Ukrainian dance festivals) all the time in places like Edmonton and Vegreville, it’s a common thing, but in Camrose it’s new. For us to be able to introduce some of that stuff here, it was a great honour.”  



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